I’m an extrovert. I know that this term has been distorted and shat upon over the years by the internet at large, but I have always liked the personality type that this entailed. I may not be the quiet, thoughtful introvert in the corner, observing the party-throwing world with equal parts disdain and curiosity, but I like who I am. Being an extrovert, while not perfect, has always suited me well.
But loving the company of others – and drawing much of my energy from it – comes with its downsides, many of them financial. No, there is nothing inherently wrong with being more motivated to leave the house if you know you are meeting up with someone, or finding yourself on a panicky Tuesday at 4:30 looking for a happy hour buddy, but those things tend to cost money. And eventually, when you say “yes” to thing after thing after thing, your calendar becomes a weird mish-mash of things that actually interest you, and things that you feel, on some level, you must do. Extroverts often have a tendency to quantify things, to feel that only by reaching a certain level of activity can we truly be fulfilled. I spent a lot of the past few years chasing a high of socialization that I rarely ever achieved.
This year, for my birthday, I’m not throwing a party. In fact, I’m leaving town altogether, going to Vermont with Marc, TFD designer Lauren, and her boyfriend – all of whom also happen to be January babies. It’s my first birthday going away instead of sticking around, and I have to say, it’s been a great feeling. Seeing my birthday approach on the calendar and knowing that I have nothing to plan or organize, no surprise to expect, and no acquaintances to say hi to for thirty seconds at a bar to prove how many “friends” I have is wonderful. I am going away with three of my favorite people, and we can just enjoy some great wine and food and scenery in peace.
My birthday, though, is only the cherry on the sundae of my recent social behavior. Part of my financial cleansing has been greatly reducing the amount of “going out” money I spend, and that inherently means streamlining how often and with whom you choose to go out. In simple terms, I’ve lost a lot of friends, but they weren’t really friends to begin with. I have lost acquaintances whom I simply stopped reaching out to, and did not feel the loss of. A few months without contact and it’s clear how much social clutter an extrovert can accumulate, how many people were put into the “friend” category on the basis of a few sporadic, largely superficial interactions. And this is not an indictment of any of these peope – they were and are all great, and I would be happy to run into them again. It’s just an issue of space we have in our lives, and what amount of our energy and resources we want to dedicate to whom. At Thanksgiving, we had a little over a dozen people, all of whom we adore. To me, that feels like more than enough to manage already.
I’ve also started learning how to say “no” to things in a way that is honest and respectful, instead of just pretending to be sick to get out of things at the last minute. Remembering that we are not obligated to accept every invitation, or make an appearance at every event, is crucial to mental and financial health for extroverts, I think. And learning how to be kind and frank with one another about declining an invite is essential, as we tend to operate in this very “a no is an ‘I hate you’” way, which is simply unsustainable. For me, few things have felt better than learning how to simplify and appreciate my social interactions, to pick and choose what is right and doable, and not worry about being occupied at all times. (Even if we could please everyone at all times, who would want to be that exhausted?)
At the risk of sounding sentimental, I haven’t been this happy in a long, long time. Yes, a large part of that is Mona, but the real source of this happiness is all of the things I accomplished before she came. I spend less money, I wake up early, I do work that I love, and I only have the people around me that I really enjoy. My hangovers are very rare, and always worth it. I don’t feel like I’m keeping up with anything, or trying to be a person that I imagine seems more successful and cool. My schedule is sparse, but my kitchen is full and my mornings are always incredibly serene. I am just myself, and that has been surprisingly inexpensive.
Image via Pexels